General master program
The provisions of this section shall be applied either
generally to all shoreline areas or to shoreline areas that meet the
specified criteria of the provision without regard to environment
designation. These provisions address certain elements as required by RCW
90.58.100(2) and implement the principles as established in WAC
(1) Archaeological and historic resources.
(a) Applicability. The following provisions apply to
archaeological and historic resources that are either recorded at the
state historic preservation office and/or by local jurisdictions or have
been inadvertently uncovered. Archaeological sites located both in and
outside shoreline jurisdiction are subject to chapter
27.44 RCW (Indian graves and records) and chapter
27.53 RCW (Archaeological sites and records) and development or uses
that may impact such sites shall comply with chapter
25-48 WAC as well as the provisions of this chapter.
(b) Principles. Due to the limited and irreplaceable nature of
the resource(s), prevent the destruction of or damage to any site having
historic, cultural, scientific, or educational value as identified by the
appropriate authorities, including affected Indian tribes, and the office
of archaeology and historic preservation.
(c) Standards. Local shoreline master programs shall include
policies and regulations to protect historic, archaeological, and cultural
features and qualities of shorelines and implement the following
standards. A local government may reference historic inventories or
regulations. Contact the office of archaeology and historic preservation
and affected Indian tribes for additional information.
(i) Require that developers and property owners immediately stop work
and notify the local government, the office of archaeology and historic
preservation and affected Indian tribes if archaeological resources are
uncovered during excavation.
(ii) Require that permits issued in areas documented to contain
archaeological resources require a site inspection or evaluation by a
professional archaeologist in coordination with affected Indian tribes.
(2) Critical areas.
(a) Applicability. Pursuant to the provisions of RCW
36.70A.480(3) as amended by chapter 107, Laws of 2010 (EHB 1653),
shoreline master programs must provide for management of critical areas
designated as such pursuant to RCW
36.70A.170 (1)(d) located within the shorelines of the state with
policies and regulations that:
(i) Are consistent with the specific provisions of this subsection
(2) critical areas and subsection (3) of this section flood hazard
reduction, and these guidelines; and
(ii) Provide a level of protection to critical
areas within the shoreline area that assures no net loss of shoreline
ecological functions necessary to sustain shoreline natural resources.
The provisions of this section and subsection (3) of this section,
flood hazard reduction, shall be applied to critical areas within the
shorelines of the state. RCW
36.70A.030 defines critical areas as:
""Critical areas" include the following areas and ecosystems:
(a) Wetlands; (b) areas with a critical recharging effect on aquifers
used for potable waters; (c) fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas;
(d) frequently flooded areas; and (e) geologically hazardous areas."
The provisions of WAC
365-190-130, to the extent standards for certain types of critical
areas are not provided by this section and subsection (3) of this section
flood hazard reduction, and to the extent consistent with these guidelines
are also applicable to and provide further definition of critical area
categories and management policies.
As provided in RCW
90.58.030 (2)(f)(ii) and
36.70A.480, as amended by chapter 321, Laws of 2003 (ESHB 1933), any
city or county may also include in its master program land necessary for
buffers for critical areas, as defined in chapter
36.70A RCW, that occur within shorelines of the state, provided that
forest practices regulated under chapter
76.09 RCW, except conversions to nonforest land use, on lands subject
to the provision of WAC
173-26-241(3)(e) are not subject to
additional regulations. If a local government does not include land
necessary for buffers for critical areas that occur within shorelines of
the state, as authorized above, then the local jurisdiction shall continue
to regulate those critical areas and required buffers pursuant to RCW
In addition to critical areas defined under chapter
RCW and critical saltwater and freshwater habitats as described in these
guidelines, local governments should identify additional shoreline areas
that warrant special protection necessary to achieve no net loss of
(b) Principles. Local master programs, when addressing
critical areas, shall implement the following principles:
(i) Shoreline master programs shall adhere to the standards
established in the following sections, unless it is demonstrated through
scientific and technical information as provided in RCW
90.58.100(1) and as described in WAC
173-26-201 (2)(a) that an alternative approach provides better
(ii) In addressing issues related to critical areas, use scientific
and technical information, as described in WAC
173-26-201 (2)(a). The role of ecology in reviewing master program
provisions for critical areas in shorelines of the state will be based on
the Shoreline Management Act and these guidelines.
(iii) In protecting and restoring critical areas within shoreline
jurisdiction, integrate the full spectrum of planning and regulatory
measures, including the comprehensive plan, interlocal watershed plans,
local development regulations, and state, tribal, and federal programs.
(iv) The planning objectives of shoreline management provisions for
critical areas shall be the protection of existing ecological functions
and ecosystem-wide processes and restoration of degraded ecological
functions and ecosystem-wide processes. The regulatory provisions for
critical areas shall protect existing ecological functions and
(v) Promote human uses and values that are compatible with the other
objectives of this section, such as public access and aesthetic values,
provided that impacts to ecological functions are first avoided, and any
unavoidable impacts are mitigated.
When preparing master program provisions for critical areas, local
governments should implement the following standards and use scientific and technical information, as provided
for in WAC
Provisions for frequently flooded areas are included in WAC
(A) Wetland use regulations. Local governments should consult
the department's technical guidance documents on wetlands.
Regulations shall address the following uses to achieve, at a
minimum, no net loss of wetland area and functions, including lost time
when the wetland does not perform the function:
• The removal, excavation, grading, or dredging of soil, sand,
gravel, minerals, organic matter, or material of any kind;
• The dumping, discharging, or filling with any material, including
discharges of storm water and domestic, commercial, or industrial
• The draining, flooding, or disturbing of the water level, duration
of inundation, or water table;
• The driving of pilings;
• The placing of obstructions;
• The construction, reconstruction, demolition, or expansion of any
• Significant vegetation removal, provided that these activities are
not part of a forest practice governed under chapter
76.09 RCW and its rules;
• Other uses or development that results in an ecological
impact to the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of
• Activities reducing the functions of buffers described in (c)(i)(D)
of this subsection.
(B) Wetland rating or categorization. Wetlands shall be
categorized based on the rarity, irreplaceability, or sensitivity to
disturbance of a wetland and the functions the wetland provides. Local
governments should either use the Washington state wetland rating system,
Eastern or Western Washington version as appropriate, or they should
develop their own, regionally specific, scientifically based method for
categorizing wetlands. Wetlands should be categorized to reflect
differences in wetland quality and function in order to tailor protection
standards appropriately. A wetland categorization method is not a
substitute for a function assessment method, where detailed information on
wetland functions is needed.
(C) Alterations to wetlands. Master program provisions
addressing alterations to wetlands shall be consistent with the policy of
no net loss of wetland area and functions, wetland rating, scientific and
technical information, and the mitigation priority sequence defined in WAC
(D) Buffers. Master programs shall contain requirements for
buffer zones around wetlands. Buffer requirements shall be adequate to
ensure that wetland functions are protected and maintained in the long
term. Requirements for buffer zone widths and management shall take into
account the ecological functions of the wetland, the characteristics and
setting of the buffer, the potential impacts associated with the adjacent
land use, and other relevant factors.
(E) Mitigation. Master programs shall contain wetland
mitigation requirements that are consistent with WAC
173-26-201 (2)(e) and which are based on the wetland rating.
(F) Compensatory mitigation. Compensatory mitigation shall be
allowed only after mitigation sequencing is applied and higher priority
means of mitigation are determined to be infeasible.
Requirements for compensatory mitigation must include provisions for:
(I) Mitigation replacement ratios or a similar method of addressing
• The risk of failure of the compensatory mitigation action;
• The length of time it will take the compensatory mitigation action
to adequately replace the impacted wetland functions and values;
• The gain or loss of the type, quality, and quantity of the
ecological functions of the compensation wetland as compared with the
(II) Establishment of performance standards for evaluating the
success of compensatory mitigation actions;
(III) Establishment of long-term monitoring and reporting procedures
to determine if performance standards are met; and
(IV) Establishment of long-term protection and management of
compensatory mitigation sites.
Credits from a certified mitigation bank may be used to compensate
for unavoidable impacts.
(ii) Geologically hazardous areas. Development in designated
geologically hazardous areas shall be regulated in accordance with the
(A) Consult designation criteria for geologically hazardous areas, WAC
(B) Do not allow new development or the creation of new lots that
would cause foreseeable risk from geological conditions to people or
improvements during the life of the development.
(C) Do not allow new development that would require structural
shoreline stabilization over the life of the development. Exceptions may
be made for the limited instances where stabilization is necessary to
protect allowed uses where no alternative locations are available and no
net loss of ecological functions will result. The stabilization measures
shall conform to WAC
(D) Where no alternatives, including relocation or reconstruction of
existing structures, are found to be feasible, and less expensive than the
proposed stabilization measure, stabilization structures or measures to
protect existing primary residential structures may be allowed in strict
conformance with WAC
173-26-231 requirements and then only if no net loss of ecological
functions will result.
(iii) Critical saltwater habitats.
(A) Applicability. Critical saltwater habitats include all
kelp beds, eelgrass beds, spawning and holding areas for forage fish, such
as herring, smelt and sandlance; subsistence, commercial and recreational
shellfish beds; mudflats, intertidal habitats with vascular plants, and
areas with which priority species have a primary association. Critical
saltwater habitats require a higher level of protection due to the
important ecological functions they provide. Ecological functions of
marine shorelands can affect the viability of critical saltwater habitats.
Therefore, effective protection and restoration of critical saltwater
habitats should integrate management of shorelands as well as submerged
(B) Principles. Master programs shall include policies and
regulations to protect critical saltwater habitats and should implement
planning policies and programs to restore such habitats. The inclusion of
commercial aquaculture in the critical saltwater habitat definition does
not limit its regulation as a use. Reserving shoreline areas for
protecting and restoring ecological functions should be done prior to
reserving shoreline areas for uses described in WAC
173-26-201(2)(d)(i) through (v). Planning for
critical saltwater habitats shall incorporate the participation of state
resource agencies to assure consistency with other legislatively created
programs in addition to local and regional government entities with an
interest such as port districts. Affected Indian tribes shall also be
consulted. Local governments should review relevant comprehensive
management plan policies and development regulations for shorelands and
adjacent lands to achieve consistency as directed in RCW
90.58.340. Local governments should base management planning on
information provided by state resource agencies and affected Indian tribes
unless they demonstrate that they possess more accurate and reliable
The management planning should include an evaluation of current data
and trends regarding the following:
- Available inventory and collection of necessary data regarding
physical characteristics of the habitat, including upland conditions, and
any information on species population trends;
- Terrestrial and aquatic vegetation;
- The level of human activity in such areas, including the presence
of roads and level of recreational types (passive or active recreation may
be appropriate for certain areas and habitats);
- Restoration potential;
- Tributaries and small streams flowing into marine waters;
- Dock and bulkhead construction, including an inventory of bulkheads
serving no protective purpose;
- Conditions and ecological functions in the near-shore area;
- Uses surrounding the critical saltwater habitat areas that may
negatively impact those areas, including permanent or occasional upland,
beach, or over-water uses; and
An analysis of what data gaps exist and a strategy for gaining this
The management planning should address the following, where
- Protecting a system of fish and wildlife habitats with connections
between larger habitat blocks and open spaces and restoring such habitats
and connections where they are degraded;
- Protecting existing and restoring degraded riparian and estuarine
ecosystems, especially salt marsh habitats;
- Establishing adequate buffer zones around these areas to separate
incompatible uses from the habitat areas;
- Protecting existing and restoring degraded near-shore habitat;
- Protecting existing and restoring degraded or lost salmonid,
shorebird, waterfowl, or marine mammal
- Protecting existing and restoring degraded upland ecological
functions important to critical saltwater habitats, including riparian
and associated upland native plant communities;
- Improving water quality;
- Protecting existing and restoring degraded sediment inflow and
transport regimens; and
- Correcting activities that cause excessive sediment input where
human activity has led to mass wasting.
Local governments, in conjunction with state resource agencies and
affected Indian tribes, should classify critical saltwater habitats and
protect and restore seasonal ranges and habitat elements with which
federal-listed and state-listed endangered, threatened, and priority
species have a primary association and which, if altered, may reduce the
likelihood that a species will maintain its population and reproduce over
the long term.
Local governments, in conjunction with state resource agencies and
affected Indian tribes, should determine which habitats and species are of
Local governments shall
protect kelp and eelgrass beds, forage fish spawning and holding
areas, and priority species habitat
identified by the department of natural resources' aquatic resources
division, the department of fish and wildlife, the department, and affected Indian tribes as critical saltwater
Comprehensive saltwater habitat management planning should identify
methods for monitoring conditions and adapting management practices to new
Standards. Docks, piers, bulkheads, bridges, fill, floats,
jetties, utility crossings, and other human-made structures shall not
intrude into or over critical saltwater habitats except when all of the
conditions below are met:
- The public's need for such an action or structure is clearly
demonstrated and the proposal is consistent with protection of the public
trust, as embodied in RCW
- Avoidance of impacts to critical saltwater habitats by an
alternative alignment or location is not feasible or would result in
unreasonable and disproportionate cost to accomplish the same general
- The project including any required mitigation, will result in no
net loss of ecological functions associated with critical saltwater
- The project is consistent with the state's interest in resource
protection and species recovery.
Private, noncommercial docks for individual residential or community
use may be authorized provided that:
- Avoidance of impacts to critical saltwater habitats by an
alternative alignment or location is not feasible;
- The project including any required mitigation, will result in no
net loss of ecological functions associated with critical saltwater
Until an inventory of critical saltwater habitat has been done,
shoreline master programs shall condition all over-water and near-shore
developments in marine and estuarine waters with the requirement for an
inventory of the site and adjacent beach sections to assess the presence
of critical saltwater habitats and functions. The methods and extent of
the inventory shall be consistent with accepted research methodology. At a
minimum, local governments should consult with department technical
assistance materials for guidance.
Applicability. The following applies to master program
provisions affecting critical freshwater habitats within shorelines of the
state designated under chapter
36.70A RCW, including those
portions of streams, rivers, wetlands, and lakes, their associated channel
migration zones, and flood plains designated as such in the master program.
Principles. Many ecological functions of
lake, river and stream
corridors depend both on continuity and connectivity along the length of
the shoreline and on the conditions of the surrounding lands on either
side of river channel and lake basin. Environmental degradation caused by development
such as improper storm water sewer or industrial outfalls, unmanaged
clearing and grading, or runoff from buildings and parking lots within the
watershed, can degrade ecological functions in lakes and downstream. Likewise, gradual
destruction or loss of the riparian and associated upland native plant
communities, alteration of runoff quality and
quantity along the lake basin and stream corridor resulting from incremental flood plain
and lake basin development can raise water temperatures and alter hydrographic conditions,
degrading ecological functions. This makes the corridor
inhospitable for invertebrate and vertebrate aquatic, amphibian and
terrestrial wildlife species and susceptible to catastrophic
flooding, droughts, landslides and channel changes. These conditions also
threaten human health, safety, and property. Long stretches of lake, river and
stream shorelines have been significantly altered or degraded in this
manner. Therefore, effective management of lake basins and river and stream corridors
(I) Planning for protection, and restoration where appropriate,
throughout the lake basin and along
the entire length of the corridor from river headwaters to the mouth; and
(II) Regulating uses and development within
lake basins and stream channels,
associated channel migration zones, wetlands, and the flood plains, to the
extent such areas are in the shoreline jurisdictional area, as necessary
to assure no net loss of ecological functions, including where applicable the associated hyporheic zone, results from
As part of a comprehensive approach to management of critical
freshwater habitat and other lake, river and stream values, local governments
should integrate master program provisions, including those for shoreline
stabilization, fill, vegetation conservation, water quality, flood hazard
reduction, and specific uses, to protect human health and safety and to
protect and restore lake and river corridor ecological functions and ecosystem-wide
Applicable master programs shall contain provisions to protect
hydrologic connections between water bodies, water courses, and associated
wetlands. Restoration planning should include incentives and other means
to restore water connections that have been impeded by previous
Master program provisions for
lake basins and river and stream corridors should,
where appropriate, be based on the information from comprehensive
watershed management planning where available.
Standards. Master programs shall implement the following
standards within shoreline jurisdiction:
(I) Provide for the protection of ecological functions associated
with critical freshwater habitat as necessary to assure no net loss of
(II) Integrate protection of critical freshwater,
riparian and associated upland habitat, protection with flood hazard reduction and other
lake, wetland, river and stream
(III) Include provisions that facilitate authorization of appropriate
(IV) Provide for the implementation of the principles identified in (c)(iv)(B)
of this subsection.
Flood hazard reduction.
Applicability. The following provisions apply to actions
taken to reduce flood damage or hazard and to uses, development, and
shoreline modifications that may increase flood hazards. Flood hazard
reduction measures may consist of nonstructural measures, such as
setbacks, land use controls, wetland restoration, dike removal, use
relocation, biotechnical measures, and storm water management programs,
and of structural measures, such as dikes, levees, revetments, floodwalls,
channel realignment, and elevation of structures consistent with the
National Flood Insurance Program. Additional relevant critical area
provisions are in WAC
(b) Principles. Flooding of rivers, streams, and other
shorelines is a natural process that is affected by factors and land uses
occurring throughout the watershed. Past land use practices have disrupted
hydrological processes and increased the rate and volume of runoff,
thereby exacerbating flood hazards and reducing ecological functions.
Flood hazard reduction measures are most effective when integrated into
comprehensive strategies that recognize the natural hydrogeological and
biological processes of water bodies. Over the long term, the most
effective means of flood hazard reduction is to prevent or remove
development in flood-prone areas, to manage storm water within the flood
plain, and to maintain or restore river and stream system's natural
hydrological and geomorphological processes.
Structural flood hazard reduction measures, such as diking, even if
effective in reducing inundation in a portion of the watershed, can
intensify flooding elsewhere. Moreover, structural flood hazard reduction
measures can damage ecological functions crucial to fish and wildlife
species, bank stability, and water quality. Therefore, structural flood
hazard reduction measures shall be avoided whenever possible. When
necessary, they shall be accomplished in a manner that assures no net loss
of ecological functions and ecosystem-wide processes.
dynamic physical processes of rivers, including the movement of
water, sediment and wood, cause the river channel in some areas to move
laterally, or "migrate," over time. This is a natural process in response
to gravity and topography and allows the river to release energy and
distribute its sediment load. The area within which a river channel is
likely to move over a period of time is referred to as the channel
migration zone (CMZ) or the meander belt. Scientific examination as well
as experience has demonstrated that interference with this natural process
often has unintended consequences for human users of the river and its
valley such as increased or changed flood, sedimentation and erosion
patterns. It also has adverse effects on fish and wildlife through loss of
critical habitat for river and riparian dependent species. Failing to
recognize the process often leads to damage to, or loss of, structures and
threats to life safety.
Applicable shoreline master programs should include provisions to
limit development and shoreline modifications that would result in
interference with the process of channel migration that may cause
significant adverse impacts to property or public improvements and/or
result in a net loss of ecological functions associated with the rivers
and streams. (See also (c) of this subsection.)
The channel migration zone should be
established to identify those
areas with a high probability of being subject to channel movement based
on the historic record, geologic character and evidence of past migration.
It should also be recognized that past action is not a perfect predictor
of the future and that human and natural changes may alter migration
patterns. Consideration should be given to such changes that may have
occurred and their effect on future migration patterns.
For management purposes, the extent of likely migration along a
stream reach can be identified using evidence of active stream channel
movement over the past one hundred years. Evidence of active movement can
be provided from historic and current aerial photos and maps and may
require field analysis of specific channel and valley bottom
characteristics in some cases. A time frame of one hundred years was
chosen because aerial photos, maps and field evidence can be used to
evaluate movement in this time frame.
In some cases, river channels are prevented from normal or historic
migration by human-made structures or other shoreline modifications. The
definition of channel migration zone indicates that in defining the extent
of a CMZ, local governments should take into account the river's
characteristics and its surroundings. Unless otherwise demonstrated
through scientific and technical information, the following
characteristics should be considered when establishing the extent of the
CMZ for management purposes:
- Within incorporated municipalities and urban growth areas, areas
separated from the active river channel by legally existing artificial
channel constraints that limit channel movement should not be considered
within the channel migration zone.
- All areas separated from the active channel by a legally existing
artificial structure(s) that is likely to restrain channel migration,
including transportation facilities, built above or constructed to remain
intact through the one hundred-year flood, should not be considered to be
in the channel migration zone.
- In areas outside incorporated municipalities and urban growth
areas, channel constraints and flood control structures built below the
one hundred-year flood elevation do not necessarily restrict channel
migration and should not be considered to limit the channel migration zone
unless demonstrated otherwise using scientific and technical information.
Master programs shall implement the following
(i) Where feasible, give preference to nonstructural flood hazard
reduction measures over structural measures.
(ii) Base shoreline master program flood hazard reduction provisions
on applicable watershed management plans, comprehensive flood hazard
management plans, and other comprehensive planning efforts, provided those
measures are consistent with the Shoreline Management Act and this
(iii) Consider integrating master program flood hazard reduction
provisions with other regulations and programs, including (if applicable):
- Storm water management plans;
- Flood plain regulations, as provided for in chapter
- Critical area ordinances and comprehensive plans, as provided in
chapter 36.70A RCW; and
- The National Flood Insurance Program.
(iv) Assure that flood hazard protection measures do not result in a
net loss of ecological functions associated with the rivers and streams.
(v) Plan for and facilitate returning river and stream corridors to
more natural hydrological conditions. Recognize that seasonal flooding is
an essential natural process.
(vi) When evaluating alternate flood control measures, consider the
removal or relocation of structures in flood-prone areas.
(vii) Local governments are encouraged to plan for and facilitate
removal of artificial restrictions to natural channel migration,
restoration of off channel hydrological connections and return river
processes to a more natural state where feasible and appropriate.
Standards. Master programs shall implement the following
standards within shoreline jurisdiction:
Development in flood plains should not significantly or
cumulatively increase flood hazard or be inconsistent with a comprehensive
flood hazard management plan adopted pursuant to chapter
86.12 RCW, provided the plan has been adopted after 1994 and approved
by the department. New development or new uses in shoreline jurisdiction,
including the subdivision of land, should not be established when it would
be reasonably foreseeable that the development or use would require
structural flood hazard reduction measures within the channel migration
zone or floodway. The following uses and activities may be appropriate
and/or necessary within the channel migration zone or floodway:
- Actions that protect or restore the ecosystem-wide processes or
- Forest practices in compliance with the Washington State Forest
Practices Act and its implementing rules.
- Existing and ongoing agricultural practices, provided that no new
restrictions to channel movement occur.
- Mining when conducted in a manner consistent with the environment
designation and with the provisions of WAC
- Bridges, utility lines, and other public utility and transportation
structures where no other feasible alternative exists or the alternative
would result in unreasonable and disproportionate cost. Where such
structures are allowed, mitigation shall address impacted functions and
processes in the affected section of watershed or drift cell.
- Repair and maintenance of an existing legal use, provided that such
actions do not cause significant ecological impacts or increase flood
hazards to other uses.
- Development with a primary purpose of protecting or restoring
ecological functions and ecosystem-wide processes.
- Modifications or additions to an existing nonagricultural legal
use, provided that channel migration is not further limited and that the
new development includes appropriate protection of ecological functions.
- Development in incorporated municipalities and designated urban
growth areas, as defined in chapter
36.70A RCW, where existing structures prevent active channel movement
- Measures to reduce shoreline erosion, provided that it is
demonstrated that the erosion rate exceeds that which would normally occur
in a natural condition, that the measure does not interfere with fluvial
hydrological and geomorphological processes normally acting in natural
conditions, and that the measure includes appropriate mitigation of
impacts to ecological functions associated with the river or stream.
new structural flood hazard reduction measures in
shoreline jurisdiction only when it can be demonstrated by a scientific
and engineering analysis that they are necessary to protect existing
development, that nonstructural measures are not feasible, that impacts on
ecological functions and priority species and habitats can be successfully
mitigated so as to assure no net loss, and that appropriate vegetation
conservation actions are undertaken consistent with WAC
Structural flood hazard reduction measures shall be consistent with
an adopted comprehensive flood hazard management plan approved by the
department that evaluates cumulative impacts to the watershed system.
new structural flood hazard reduction measures landward
of the associated wetlands, and designated vegetation conservation areas,
except for actions that increase ecological functions, such as wetland
restoration, or as noted below. Provided that such flood hazard reduction
projects be authorized if it is determined that no other alternative to
reduce flood hazard to existing development is feasible. The need for, and
analysis of feasible alternatives to, structural improvements shall be
documented through a geotechnical analysis.
(iv) Require that
new structural public flood hazard reduction
measures, such as dikes and levees, dedicate and improve public access
pathways unless public access improvements would cause unavoidable health
or safety hazards to the public, inherent and unavoidable security
problems, unacceptable and unmitigable significant ecological impacts,
unavoidable conflict with the proposed use, or a cost that is
disproportionate and unreasonable to the total long-term cost of the
(v) Require that the removal of
gravel for flood management purposes
be consistent with an adopted flood hazard reduction plan and with this
chapter and allowed only after a biological and geomorphological study
shows that extraction has a long-term benefit to flood hazard reduction,
does not result in a net loss of ecological functions, and is part of a
comprehensive flood management solution.
Applicability. Public access includes the ability of the
general public to reach, touch, and enjoy the water's edge, to travel on
the waters of the state, and to view the water and the shoreline from
adjacent locations. Public access provisions below apply to all shorelines
of the state unless stated otherwise.
Principles. Local master programs shall:
(i) Promote and enhance the public interest with regard to rights to
access waters held in public trust by the state while protecting private
property rights and public safety.
(ii) Protect the rights of navigation and space necessary for
(iii) To the greatest extent feasible consistent with the overall
best interest of the state and the people generally, protect the public's
opportunity to enjoy the physical and aesthetic qualities of shorelines of
the state, including views of the water.
(iv) Regulate the design, construction, and operation of permitted
uses in the shorelines of the state to minimize, insofar as practical,
interference with the public's use of the water.
Planning process to address public access. Local
governments should plan for an integrated shoreline area public access
system that identifies specific public needs and opportunities to provide
public access. Such a system can often be more effective and economical
than applying uniform public access requirements to all development. This
planning should be integrated with other relevant comprehensive plan
elements, especially transportation and recreation. The planning process
shall also comply with all relevant constitutional and other legal
limitations that protect private property rights.
Where a port district or other public entity has incorporated public
access planning into its master plan through an open public process, that
plan may serve as a portion of the local government's public access
planning, provided it meets the provisions of this chapter. The planning
may also justify more flexible off-site or special area public access
provisions in the master program. Public participation requirements in WAC
173-26-201 (3)(b)(i) apply to public access planning.
At a minimum, the public access planning should result in public
access requirements for shoreline permits, recommended projects, port
master plans, and/or actions to be taken to develop public shoreline
access to shorelines on public property. The planning should identify a
variety of shoreline access opportunities and circulation for pedestrians
(including disabled persons), bicycles, and vehicles between shoreline
access points, consistent with other comprehensive plan elements.
Standards. Shoreline master programs should implement the
(i) Based on the public access planning described in (c) of this
subsection, establish policies and regulations that protect and enhance
both physical and visual public access. The master program shall address
public access on public lands. The master program should seek to increase
the amount and diversity of public access to the state's shorelines
consistent with the natural shoreline character, property rights, public
rights under the Public Trust Doctrine, and public safety.
(ii) Require that shoreline development by public entities, including
local governments, port districts, state agencies, and public utility
districts, include public access measures as part of each development
project, unless such access is shown to be incompatible due to reasons of
safety, security, or impact to the shoreline environment. Where public
access planning as described in WAC
173-26-221 (4)(c) demonstrates that a more effective public access
system can be achieved through alternate means, such as focusing public
access at the most desirable locations, local governments may institute
master program provisions for public access based on that approach in lieu
of uniform site-by-site public access requirements.
(iii) Provide standards for the dedication and improvement of public
access in developments for water-enjoyment, water-related, and nonwater-dependent
uses and for the subdivision of land into more than four parcels. In these
cases, public access should be required except:
(A) Where the local government provides more effective public access
through a public access planning process described in WAC
(B) Where it is demonstrated to be infeasible due to reasons of
incompatible uses, safety, security, or impact to the shoreline
environment or due to constitutional or other legal limitations that may
In determining the infeasibility, undesirability, or incompatibility
of public access in a given situation, local governments shall consider
alternate methods of providing public access, such as off-site
improvements, viewing platforms, separation of uses through site planning
and design, and restricting hours of public access.
(C) For individual single-family residences not part of a development
planned for more than four parcels.
(iv) Adopt provisions, such as maximum height limits, setbacks, and
view corridors, to minimize the impacts to existing views from public
property or substantial numbers of residences. Where there is an
irreconcilable conflict between water-dependent shoreline uses or physical
public access and maintenance of views from adjacent properties, the
water-dependent uses and physical public access shall have priority,
unless there is a compelling reason to the contrary.
(v) Assure that public access improvements do not result in a net
loss of shoreline ecological functions.
Shoreline vegetation conservation.
(a) Applicability. Vegetation conservation includes activities
to protect and restore vegetation along or near marine and freshwater
shorelines that contribute to the ecological functions of shoreline areas.
Vegetation conservation provisions include the prevention or restriction
of plant clearing and earth grading, vegetation restoration, and the
control of invasive weeds and nonnative species.
Unless otherwise stated, vegetation conservation does not include
those activities covered under the Washington State Forest Practices Act,
except for conversion to other uses and those other forest practice
activities over which local governments have authority. As with all master
program provisions, vegetation conservation provisions apply even to those
shoreline uses and developments that are exempt from the requirement to
obtain a permit. Like other master program provisions, vegetation
conservation standards do not apply retroactively to existing uses and
structures, such as existing agricultural practices.
Principles. The intent of vegetation conservation is to
protect and restore the ecological functions and ecosystem-wide processes
performed by vegetation along shorelines. Vegetation conservation should
also be undertaken to protect human safety and property, to increase the
stability of river banks and coastal bluffs, to reduce the need for
structural shoreline stabilization measures, to improve the visual and
aesthetic qualities of the shoreline, to protect plant and animal species
and their habitats, and to enhance shoreline uses.
Master programs shall include: Planning provisions that address
vegetation conservation and restoration, and regulatory provisions that
address conservation of vegetation; as necessary to assure no net loss of
shoreline ecological functions and ecosystem-wide processes, to avoid
adverse impacts to soil hydrology, and to reduce the hazard of slope
failures or accelerated erosion.
Local governments should address ecological functions and
ecosystem-wide processes provided by vegetation as described in WAC
Local governments may implement these objectives through a variety of
measures, where consistent with Shoreline Management Act policy, including
clearing and grading regulations, setback and buffer standards, critical
area regulations, conditional use requirements for specific uses or areas,
mitigation requirements, incentives and nonregulatory programs.
In establishing vegetation conservation regulations, local
governments must use available scientific and technical information, as
described in WAC
173-26-201 (2)(a). At a minimum, local governments should consult
shoreline management assistance materials provided by the department and
Management Recommendations for Washington's Priority Habitats,
prepared by the Washington state department of fish and wildlife where
evidence indicates that the length, width, and
species composition of a shoreline vegetation community contribute
substantively to the aquatic ecological functions. Likewise, the biota
within the aquatic environment is essential to ecological functions of the
adjacent upland vegetation. The ability of vegetated areas to provide
critical ecological functions diminishes as the length and width of the
vegetated area along shorelines is reduced. When shoreline vegetation is
removed, the narrower the area of remaining vegetation, the greater the
risk that the functions will not be performed.
In the Pacific Northwest, aquatic environments, as well as their
associated upland vegetation and wetlands, provide significant habitat for
a myriad of fish and wildlife species. Healthy environments for aquatic
species are inseparably linked with the ecological integrity of the
surrounding terrestrial ecosystem. For example, a nearly continuous
corridor of mature forest characterizes the natural riparian conditions of
the Pacific Northwest. Riparian corridors along marine shorelines provide
many of the same functions as their freshwater counterparts. The most
commonly recognized functions of the shoreline vegetation include, but are
not limited to:
• Providing shade necessary to maintain the cool temperatures
required by salmonids, spawning forage fish, and other aquatic biota.
• Providing organic inputs critical for aquatic life.
• Providing food in the form of various insects and other benthic
• Stabilizing banks, minimizing erosion, and reducing the occurrence
of landslides. The roots of trees and other riparian vegetation provide
the bulk of this function.
• Reducing fine sediment input into the aquatic environment through
storm water retention and vegetative filtering.
• Filtering and vegetative uptake of nutrients and pollutants from
ground water and surface runoff.
• Providing a source of large woody debris into the aquatic system.
Large woody debris is the primary structural element that functions as a
hydraulic roughness element to moderate flows. Large woody debris also
serves a pool-forming function, providing critical salmonid rearing and
refuge habitat. Abundant large woody debris increases aquatic diversity
• Regulation of microclimate in the stream-riparian and intertidal
• Providing critical wildlife habitat, including migration corridors
and feeding, watering, rearing, and refugia areas.
Sustaining different individual functions requires different
compositions and densities of vegetation. The importance of the different
functions, in turn, varies with the type of shoreline setting. For
example, in forested shoreline settings, periodic recruitment of fallen
trees, especially conifers, into the stream channel is an important
attribute, critical to natural stream channel maintenance. Therefore,
vegetated areas along streams which once supported or could in the future
support mature trees should be wide enough to accomplish this periodic
Woody vegetation normally classed as trees may not be a natural
component of plant communities in some environments, such as in arid
climates and on coastal dunes. In these instances, the width of a
vegetated area necessary to achieve the full suite of vegetation-related
shoreline functions may not be related to vegetation height.
Local governments should identify which ecological processes and
functions are important to the local aquatic and terrestrial ecology and
conserve sufficient vegetation to maintain them. Such vegetation
conservation areas are not necessarily intended to be closed to use and
development but should provide for management of vegetation in a manner
adequate to assure no net loss of shoreline ecological functions.
Standards. Master programs shall implement the following
requirements in shoreline jurisdiction.
Establish vegetation conservation standards that implement the
principles in WAC
173-26-221 (5)(b). Methods to do this may include setback or buffer
requirements, clearing and grading standards, regulatory incentives,
environment designation standards, or other master program provisions.
Selective pruning of trees for safety and view protection may be allowed
and the removal of noxious weeds should be authorized.
Additional vegetation conservation standards for specific uses are
included in WAC
quality, storm water, and nonpoint pollution.
(a) Applicability. The following section applies to all
development and uses in shorelines of the state, as defined in WAC
173-26-020, that affect water quality.
(b) Principles. Shoreline master programs shall, as stated in
RCW 90.58.020, protect against adverse impacts to the public health, to
the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and to the waters of the state
and their aquatic life, through implementation of the following
(i) Prevent impacts to water quality and storm water quantity that
would result in a net loss of shoreline ecological functions, or a
significant impact to aesthetic qualities, or recreational opportunities.
(ii) Ensure mutual consistency between shoreline management
provisions and other regulations that address water quality and storm
water quantity, including public health, storm water, and water discharge
standards. The regulations that are most protective of ecological
functions shall apply.
(c) Standards. Shoreline master programs shall include
provisions to implement the principles of this section.
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